International symposium brings systems leaders including 10 ministerial delegations to The Hague to take action on WASH and connected SDGs

IRC WASH Press Release

THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS – 1 MAY 2023 – Between 2-4 May 2023, more than 700 changemakers and systems leaders from water, sanitation and hygiene, health, climate, economic development, and social justice – will gather at the World Forum, The Hague, for the All Systems Connect International Symposium 2023. Those attending include 10 ministerial level delegations from Ethiopia, Guatemala, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, Rwanda and Uganda. The Symposium will prompt systemic thinking, leadership, and action across sectors and silos to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 
The event follows hot on the heels of the UN Water conference in March 2023, providing the ‘how’ to the UN Conference’s ‘why’. The three core themes are systems leadership – leading across boundaries and driving collective action in complex circumstances; connecting across silos and sectors – finding better ways to address shared system challenges, together; and importantly on day three, taking action – making commitments that will accelerate progress and deepen impact to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Throughout, it will highlight the central role of water and sanitation in achieving the SDGs, and the injustice that one in three of the world’s population still lacks access to safe water and sanitation.    Delegates will experience 250+ presenters recognised for their global expertise and influence; 60+ cross-cutting sessions on water, sanitation and hygiene, climate, finance, health and beyond; ten themes crafted to build connection, break silos and generate action; three Make Change design sprints to innovate and prototype solutions along with country dialogues designed to catalyse change.    The Symposium is convened by international think tank IRC, global nonprofit Water For People and Water for Good, a nonprofit with expertise in working in fragile states – members of the One For All global alliance. Multiple stakeholders include UNICEF, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the World Health Organization, Sanitation and Water for All, the Government of the Netherlands, World Vision and the Osprey Foundation.     Patrick Moriarty, CEO, IRC said: “We need to connect across silos and sectors if we’re to tackle the challenges we’re all facing and achieve the SDGs. The issues are complex, but the solutions are there. They lie in strong, interconnected, national and local systems working in co-ordination to deliver crucial public services. All Systems Connect is a determined intervention to change the way we work and look at how to make this happen.”      Samson Bekele, Co-CEO, Water For People, said: “We have less than a decade to ensure that every home has taps and toilets, and every community has safe, continuous and unending water, sanitation and hygiene services. We’re failing in many areas, but we know what’s needed–joint commitments, more funding to the sector, and political will at every level. At All Systems Connect we’ll be uniting to equip ourselves with the skills, know-how and connections to achieve so much more.”     Jon Allen, CEO, Water for Good, added: “We recognise that the current way of doing things in the sector needs to shift to achieve universal and sustainable WASH services. This requires collaborative planning and execution and connecting beyond sectors and silos. The Symposium will enable all of us to connect with purpose, work on collective solutions, and strengthen our capabilities as systems leaders.” said Jon Allen, CEO, Water for Good. 

A window into the future of India’s rural stepwells: perspectives from Gujarat

India’s rural stepwells (or vavs, baolis or jhalaras) mark past relationships between communities and local water supply. Today, many are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India as historical sites of heritage. But, in the face of modern-day challenges, this second blog in a two-part series asks, what future lies ahead for these water sources with their intricate architecture, and for their local rural communities? To find out, I went to Adalaj Ni Vav near to Ahmedabad, Gujarat in early 2023.

Gujarat’s rural vavs: under threat from competing demands

More than just a water point, Adalaj Ni Vav is steeped in history with a story of love and tragedy. Yet, as nearby Adalaj village expands to meet the demands of this tourist hotspot, changing surroundings and competing priorities bring new challenges for the future conservation of this stepwell, and others like it. Buses arriving with tourists lack drop off spots. I saw the congestion on the roads leading to the well in the absence of an auto rickshaw stand, with vehicles, pedestrians and street vendors fighting for space.

The water body in the stepwell is also under threat. Local women no longer climb down Adalaj’s steps to collect water. Over time, the water has been polluted due to the influx of visitors dumping plastic into it, contaminating it, and leaving it stagnated, and no longer fit for use[i]. The Urban Management Centre[ii]’s work with the jhalaras of Jodhpur, Rajasthan, has identified challenges of overflowing and flooding during monsoon seasons. As piped water supply reaches every household, water is not collected from the stepwells and they stand neglected. This is despite them being part of a network of natural and artificial reservoirs where upstream water bodies collect the water and transfer it downstream. Lessons can be taken from this work in India’s cities to adopt a renewal approach for the adaptive re-use of rural stepwells such as Adalaj Ni Vav and others.

Sustaining Gujarat’s vavs

At present, there is significant focus on the maintenance and restoration of the sculptural elements of Adalaj Ni Vav, through protective guards that stop the many visitors from directly interacting with the structure, and vigilant caretakers ensuring their upkeep. Coverings over the octagonal well demonstrates the efforts being taken to prevent the water being contaminated by visitors dropping waste from outside the structure into the well.

Covering at the top of the structure to protect the well (Photo: Amita Bhakta)

Protecting and sustaining Gujarat’s vavs for the future also requires interventions from external organisations. Aside from the protection granted for Adalaj by the Archaeological Survey of India, it comes under nearby Ahmedabad’s recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Gujarat’s Directorate of Archaeology and Museums has been pivotal in efforts to clean the stored water in the state’s vavs, and has a role to play in supporting local authorities to conserve stepwells such as Adalaj for the longer term. As heritage sites, there remains a challenging balance to strike in the longer term. Whilst creating a ‘tourism zone’ through public-private partnerships can generate much needed revenue for the local economy, the re-use of the vav as an attraction should not come at a cost of further harm to the vav from pollution. Ensuring public awareness of the need to conserve vavs as markers of India’s water history is key.

Sustaining vavs for the future involves curation. Stepwells could be turned into ‘living’ water ‘museums’ to teach future generations about the importance of water security as climate change takes hold in India. Converting stepwells to water museums can create awareness of the rich history and the role that Adalaj and other vavs played in supplying water, acting as community hubs, and providing livelihoods for well-digging artisans in the past.

Rural stepwells of the past could inspire engineers and architects of today. As we grapple with the challenges of energy security, we should look to vavs for lessons on integrating light and natural ventilation into buildings of the modern era.

Adaptive reuse of rural vavs can be done creatively. The magnificent architecture that strikes tourists as they descend towards the pool of water can provide a temporary backdrop for outdoor concerts and art exhibitions. Water festivals at stepwells, which can provide exhibition spaces, can incorporate traditional music and stories of their rich past, to educate younger generations about their historical roots and recognise the cultural significance of stepwells for their ancestors.

Looking ahead

Gujarat’s rural stepwells may no longer fulfill their traditional purpose of supplying water, but there is no need to consign these beautiful structures to the past. Let’s look forwards towards routes to celebrate and keep India’s rural water history alive. It’s time we worked together to ensure stepwells continue to play a role in our lives in creative ways.


Special thanks to my friend, Mona Iyer, for facilitating this field visit, and to Mahesh Popat for his brilliant support in the field. Thank you  to the secretariat for their moral support for this work and to Temple Oraeki for reviewing drafts of this blog.

About the author: Amita Bhakta is a freelance consultant and co-lead for the leave no-one behind theme at the Rural Water Supply Network. She has specialised in looking at hidden issues to achieve equity and inclusion in WASH and has a keen interest in rural water heritage in India.

Amita Bhakta at Adalaj Ni Vav, Gujarat, India

Photo credits: Amita Bhakta.

[i] Srivapathy, U. and Salasha T. 2021. Adalaj Stepwell: A Magical Resonance of Architectural Ingenuity. Athens Journal of Architecture – Volume 7, Issue 2 pp. 275-304

[ii] Anurag Anthony, Urban Management Centre, personal communication, March 2023

Measuring water point functionality is trickier than you’d think. Here’s how we tried to make it more reliable in Uganda.

If you measure something, how do you know that someone else would get the same result? This is a fundamental question in many fields including medicine and psychology, but it is rarely considered in rural water supply.

This is a guest blog by Daniel W. Smith, a Water & Sanitation Advisor at the Center for Water Security, Sanitation, and Hygiene at USAID in Washington, DC.

Photo: A handpump mechanic performs preventive maintenance in Uganda
(Photo: Daniel W. Smith)

If you measure something, how do you know that someone else would get the same result? This is a fundamental question in many fields including medicine and psychology, but it is rarely considered in rural water supply.

This problem became painfully apparent during a recent study of professionalizing handpump maintenance in Uganda conducted by the Program for Water, Health, and Development at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and International Lifeline Fund. Our data collection team had a seemingly straightforward instruction: Count a handpump as functional if it provides water. But different data collectors interpreted the instruction differently. Some would count a handpump as functional even if it took a long time to get a little water. Others counted handpumps in a similar condition as nonfunctional. We needed a clearer, more reliable procedure to ensure that handpump functionality measured by different people would be comparable.

Continue reading “Measuring water point functionality is trickier than you’d think. Here’s how we tried to make it more reliable in Uganda.”

Learning from Gujarat’s past relationship with rural water through its stepwells

India: home to almost a fifth of the global population. Yet, its rural communities continue to face challenges in accessing water, due to overextraction depleting groundwater, poor recharge, and increased demand for water as industries expand and the rural economy grows. Ensuring water security for the future requires us to learn from the past. Across  India, rural populations once met their water needs through ingenious feats of architecture in the form of stepwells (or baolis or vavs). I went to visit Adalaj Ni Vav (Rudabai Stepwell), on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, Gujarat in February 2023. In this two-part blog series, I reflect on the lessons we can learn about the significance of stepwells for India from past uses of Adalaj (part 1) and look ahead the role that stepwells could play in the future (part 2).

What are stepwells?

Stepwells are linear buildings. Steps lead down to landings with pavilions that house two shrines, and columns which make them resemble a room, followed by more steps, until reaching a cylindrical well at the bottom. The roof of one room becomes the floor of the pavilion above. Gujarat’s stepwells range from 60 to 80-feet in depth, with their upper-most landings receiving the most light, screened by walls known as Jalees to provide shade. Stepwell corridors are open to the sky except where it enters a pavilion. The terraces of stepwells are typically marked by noises and splashes as women beat clothes and scour pots, animals drink and children run around. The stepwells are referred to by landmarks (e.g. station vav), goddesses (e.g. Surya Kundi), patrons (e.g. queen) or place (e.g. Adalaj)[i].

Shrine in a pavillion at Adalaj (Photo: Amita Bhakta)

Adalaj Ni Vav: a well with a tragic tale

Adalaj Ni Vav is a 75.3-metre-long stepwell laid out in a north-south direction. On my visit, I made my way down one of the three flights of steps arranged in a cross to enter the vav, which are attached to the main stepped corridor leading to the well at the bottom, with an octagonal opening at the top and a pavilion resting on 16 pillars with 4 built-in shrines. The vav was built between 1498-1505 by Sultan Mahmud Begada in honour of Queen Rudrarani, who he promised to marry after it was completed. When the vav was completed, Rudrarani committed suicide by jumping in to the well. Through his grief, the Sultan killed those who built it to prevent another similar vav from being built, who are buried in the graves in the nearby garden i.

Learning from Gujarat’s past links to Adalaj

Adalaj Ni Vav was once a hub for the local community until the British Raj put it and many other vavs into disuse, deeming it unhygienic and introducing taps, pumps and borewells. Rainwater harvesting enabled the community to wash their clothes and feed their animals. Travellers used the vav, built along trade routes to support India’s economic development, as a resting site[ii].

Whilst it is no longer used as a water point, Adalaj’s long-standing spiritual connections to local people can help to sustain the cultural legacy of the stepwell. There is scope to pave a way for the community to continue its traditional purpose as a place of worship. The shrine on the outer wall has long been used and maintained by local Brahmin women to the present day, who worship local goddesses for fertility, health, and family prosperity.

But, it is not just people who stand to benefit from lessons from Adalaj’s past. Birds and animals used to be attracted to the vav as a cool spot, drawn in by food left over from festivals. In an era of global challenges such as climate change, it is important to recognise that the stepwell was once a place where rich biodiversity could flourish.  

Moving forward: bridging the history of Gujarat’s stepwells to the future

The history of Gujarat’s rural stepwells reflects the cultural significance they held in the past, and show a need to recognise them as previous places of sustenance and of continued spiritual value. Whilst it is unlikely that Adalaj will once again serve as a water point, it can provide a place for biodiversity to flourish, and has the potential to teach and reengage local communities with their own water management systems for future preservation, particularly in these parts of Gujarat where drilling for petroleum is creating depressions in the water table. Let’s recognise the collective memory of Gujarat’s rural stepwells as historical sites of interest and work to preserve these ancient structures for the future.


Special thanks to my friend, Mona Iyer, for facilitating this field visit, and to Mahesh Popat for his brilliant support in the field. Thank you  to the secretariat for their moral support for this work and to Temple Oraeki for reviewing drafts of this blog.

About the author: Amita Bhakta is a freelance consultant and co-lead for the leave no-one behind theme at the Rural Water Supply Network. She has specialised in looking at hidden issues to achieve equity and inclusion in WASH and has a keen interest in rural water heritage in India.

Photo credits: Amita Bhakta.


[i] National Institute of Design (1992) Adalaj village: a course documentation Ahmedabad: National Institute of Design

[ii] Adalaj stepwell exhibition, Adalaj, India

UN Special Rapporteur – What’s next: the legacy of the UN Water Conference

Pedro Arrojo Agudo
UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation

Reposted from OHCHR

After some days of reflection, I want to share my thoughts on the UN Water Conference, which was undoubtedly a historical event for all those committed to the human rights to water and sanitation.

First, I would like to congratulate the President of the UN General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General, as well as the co-host member states, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of Tajikistan. For the first time in 47 years, the UN family gathered to host a global event on water; this is in itself a positive achievement. The UN provides an important platform to discuss the fundamental human rights to water and sanitation and I welcome the decision to hold a third UN Water Conference in 2025.

Continue reading “UN Special Rapporteur – What’s next: the legacy of the UN Water Conference”

Strengthening accountability for water

This blog is based on the Accountability for Water action and research programme funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and managed by the Partnership For African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), supported by Water Witness International, KEWASNET and Shahidi Wa Maji. The full webinar summary is available here.

On 15th December 2022, a global webinar was held to discuss the critical importance of accountability for water. During the webinar, a partnership of organizations led by PASGR and Water Witness presented the findings of their Accountability for Water research program, which aimed to identify specific actions to strengthen accountability in different contexts. The programme partners involved in the research include KEWASNET, Shahidi Wa Maji, WaterAid, Water Integrity Network, End Water Poverty, IRC, and World Bank. Dr Pauline Ngimwa and Dr Muthio Nzau of PASGR introduced the webinar.

Dr Tim Brewer of Water Witness gave an overview of the research programme which started with the global review of evidence carried out in 2019-2020.  According to this review, 80% of the research papers on accountability found that interventions contributed to improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services and water resource management (WRM). Common lessons emerged with clear recommendations for action by governments, civil society, donors and others. While a key lesson is that accountability is context specific, an analytical framework based on the “5 Rs of accountability” can be used to identify specific challenges and opportunities within this framework – the ability to review, explain, and report performance against rules, responsibilities, and obligations, and to react constructively to improve performance through sanctions, incentives, or corrective measures.

The review identified a series of knowledge gaps and questions, including gender, donors, government responsiveness, measurement, and civic space. Based on this analysis, 14 Professional Research Fellows (PRF) working in the water sector in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Liberia, and Zimbabwe from a range of government, civil society and academic institutions investigated accountability issues in their own contexts. The full list of research topics and researchers is at the bottom of this blog.

The following key takeaways for governments, civil society organizations (CSOs), and donors were drawn from a compilation of recommendations from the research projects .Presenters included Dr Firehiwot Sintayehu (Addis Ababa University);  Eunice Kivuva (CESPAD); Chitimbwa Chifunda (WaterAid Zambia), The full list of research topics and researchers at the end of this blog demonstrates the depth and breadth of evidence underlying these recommendations .

Three key takeaways for governments      

  1. Laws, policies and accountability mechanisms are essential to support accountability. However, lack of clarity and consistency between sectors and levels, a lack of knowledge and capacity about the laws and mechanisms, and weak enforcement often undermine these. Therefore, the key recommendations are to: 
    • Harmonise, strengthen, and execute laws and policies for water resources and WASH at national and subnational levels,
    • Strengthen accountability systems and relationships:  mechanisms, standards, regulation, monitoring, stakeholder engagement and enforcement including for the private sector,
    • Build capacity on accountability, develop an accountable outlook and de-politicise accountability systems.
  2. Clear roles and responsibilities and better coordination: Accountability mechanisms are often let down by poor coordination, unclear or conflicting roles and responsibilities and widespread lack of enforcement. Key actions required are to:
    • Clarify institutional roles and responsibilities between actors for WASH and WRM – eliminate conflicts in functions,
    • Separate implementation and regulatory institutions,
    • Strengthen horizontal and vertical institutional and sector coordination across water users through enforceable accountability systems and mechanisms.
  3. Informed engagement with citizens and users: All the researchers found that effective engagement with citizens, citizen groups and water users is essential for accountability but wanting. To address this governments need to:
    • Introduce or strengthen accountability mechanisms such as public hearings and citizen oversight panels,
    • Provide Information, education, and mobilisation for communities ensure access for marginalised groups,
    • Support civil society to vertically integrate social accountability initiatives into decision making at different levels,
    • Support coordination amongst actors to increase the capacity of rural women and marginalised communities to participate in problem analyses and decision-making processes.

Three key takeaways for civil society,

  1. Activate and institutionalise effective citizen oversight mechanisms.  As well as the government actions to strengthen engagement with citizens and water users Civil society organisations need to support this, they should:
    • Advocate for more legally institutionalised avenues of citizen oversight,
    • Ensure that citizens’ monitoring and advocacy initiatives are vertically and strategically integrated in decision making at all levels,
    • Carry out budget tracking throughout the whole cycle from planning to expenditure.
  2. Build capacity, empowerment and organise communities. A very common cause of weak accountability is the low levels of knowledge and capacity of water users about their rights, the laws and responsibilities around water provision and resource management, and how they can use accountability mechanisms. Civil society organisations need to:
    • Build capacity on accountability mechanisms and support their use,
    • Strengthen grassroots user groups and associations to participate in decision making,
    • Support civil society and water users, especially women, to move up the Participation ladder from token participation to active participation,  decision making, and control.
  3. Build on what works, like budget tracking, evidence-based advocacy, litigation. There is growing knowledge about successful strategies for strengthening accountability. This research has helped to strengthen a community of practice on accountability and identify examples that others can learn from. Key lessons for civil society are to:
    • Strike a balance between constructive and critical approaches to advocacy,
    • Bring strong evidence for advocacy,
    • Raise awareness of WASH and WRM issues amongst all stakeholders including citizens, government and development partners.

Four key takeaways for donors and private sector

  1. Support governments and CSOs to strengthen accountability frameworks, monitoring and enforcement. Donors can provide financial and political support for the actions for governments and civil society mentioned above. They need to:
    • Support governments on WASH and WRM accountability actions as above,
    • Support CSO actions as above,
    • Support good governance and democratic space for citizens’ voice. Citizens’ engagement is critical to enhancing accountability,
    • Invest in women’s participation and reaching marginalised people,
    • Strengthen political will for accountability.  Donors can influence government priorities,
    • Invest seriously in sustainability.
  2. Water investments need to go beyond projects. They need to: 
    • Go beyond procedural & financial accountability. For example strengthen basins planning to ensure responsible industrial water use,
    • Support budget tracking through the cycle – budget tracking is an effective tool to improve budget performance,
    • Invest in appropriate technology to support accountable and responsive services, For example digital monitoring of services and water treatment technology to prevent pollution of water resources.
  3. Enhance due diligence. Researchers found examples of very weak accountability in economic uses of water by industrial and agricultural actors. Donors and private investors can help strengthen accountability by requiring:
    • Stronger due diligence of companies in relation to water use,
    • mandatory reporting on water,
    • promoting and enforcing the Polluter pays principle
  4. Be accountable!  Donors are major investors in the water sector but often do not fulfil their commitments. For example in Zambia the WASH sector is 80% funded by Donors but only 29% of that was tracked through the budget.
    • Accountability Mechanisms are needed to enable Governments and CSO to hold Donors accountable for their commitments. 

Discussion and next steps

During the webinar, Sareen Malik from KEWASNET, emphasised the importance of legislation to strengthen accountability mechanisms. NGOs can play an important role to advocate for this and bring stakeholders together in Joint Sector reviews as a critical mechanism for accountability, monitoring and reporting. 

Martin Atela of PASGR reflected on the role of politics in undermining accountability and suggested that political interference can be mitigated by greater clarity on roles and boundaries of ministerial responsibilities. He also emphasized the need to find ways to work with political elites so they see the value in change

Next steps involve joining the community of practice on accountability for water, to continue learning from experience and to advocate for commitments to strengthen accountability.

Research partners are organising an event at the UN Conference on Water 2023: “Where is the accountability”  on Tuesday 21st March, driving a greater emphasis on governance and accountability. This needs to be front and centre of all discussion.

The Research programme is managed by the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) and Water Witness International with financial support from the Hewlett Foundation.

More information about the research is on the website including findings from the global review of evidence, recorded presentations from webinars at World Water Week 2022 in Stockholm, presentations from country specific webinars, and summary briefings of all the research topics.

List of Research topics, Professional Research Fellows and host institutions


  • Government Dynamics of Accountability in Ethiopia, Mulugeta Gashaw, Water Witness Ethiopia
  • Political Economy Analysis of water governance, Asnake Kefale
  • Risks and opportunities for growth in Ethiopia’s textile and apparel industries,  Esayas Samuel
  • Wastewater management in upstream catchment of ARB, Yosef Abebe, Addis Ababa University and Ministry of Water and Energy
  • Accountability of the One WASH National Programme of Ethiopia, Michael Negash, PSI
  • Towards a sustainable management of faecal sludge: the case of Addis Ababa, Tamene Hailu
  • Alwero Dam governance, Firehiwot Sentayu, Addis Ababa University


  • Government Dynamics of Accountability in Kenya, Dr Tiberius Barasa
  • Enhancing coordination for accountability and sustainability in water resources management; a case of Kerio sub-catchment in Baringo rift valley basin. Eunice Kivuva (CESPAD)
  • Kakamega County Water and Sanitation Company, Kenya.  Mary Simiyu, Kakamega Water Service Provider
  • Rural Women and water decisions in Kwale and Kilifi Counties, Felix Brian, KWAHO
  • Strengthening accountability in solid waste management through incentives and penalties in Naivasha, Kenya, Naomi Korir, Sanivation


  • Government Dynamics of Accountability in Tanzania, Dr Opportuna Kweka
  • Assessment of Gender Power Relations and Accountability in Community Based Water Supply Operators in Selected Water Basins of Tanzania, Pitio Ndyeshumba, Institute of Lands
  • Regulatory and Legal Accountability for Water Pollution in Tanzania: The Case of Msimbazi River Basin in Dar es Salaam City, Mwajuma Salum, University of Dar Es Salaam
  • Opportunities and challenges of accountability claiming in Tanzania’s water sector, Dr Parestico Pastory, University of Dodoma


  • What makes budget advocacy an effective accountability tool, Bubala Muyove, NGO WASH Forum and Chitimbwa Chifunda, WaterAid Zambia


  • Assessing the effectiveness and impact of statutory accountability mechanisms to improve water service provision and catchment management, Mable Murambiwa, Combined Harare Residents Association, Zimbabwe


  • Accountability Challenges in The Liberia Water-Supply Sector: LWSC in Robertsport and Kakata, Timothy Kpeh, United Youth for Peace,  Liberia

About the author:  This blog is authored by Louisa Gosling, freelance specialist in accountability, rights and inclusion in WASH, previously working with WaterAid and as chair of RWSN.

#HearingTheUnheardHRWS Digital Campaign and Side-Event at the UN Water Conference 2023

Our friends from End Water Poverty, Water Integrity Network & partners invite you to join to this UN 2023 Water Conference side event Hearing the Unheard: the Human Right to Water and Sanitation‘ & its digital campaign #HearingTheUnheardHRWS which aims to amplify the call for global action to HRWS for the vulnerable groups.

The goal of the campaign #HearingTheUnheardHRWS is to generate multi-stakeholder conversations; to raise awareness and gather key messages, opinions and recommendations that shall inform commitments, pledges, actions, initiatives and endeavours for vulnerable groups who are left behind towards realising HRWS. The campaign consists on sharing videos & live testimony of the experiences, agency and demands of marginalised groups from across the globe with responses from the Special Rapporteur, OHCHR and governments

 As provided by UN OHCR, groups in vulnerable situations include: Children and adolescents, Women and Girls, Indigenous peoples, LGBTI, Migrants Refugees Asylum seekers, Older persons, Persons with disabilities. 

We are handing over the mic to all WASH stakeholders to share their experiences, stories and views on improving WASH access for vulnerable groups. The campaign gives an opportunity for everyone to follow these experiences and views, get inspired by the vulnerable groups, reform champions, activists and advocates who are making a difference every single day, and find out how to can take action. 

How to participate in the digital campaign: 

The campaign requires original content in the form of shareable media, photographs, quotes, blog posts and videos, to promote the voices of vulnerable groups. This material will be shared through Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. If you are interested to participate please take this into account:

  1. Record A Short, Social Media-Friendly Video (Maximum 1 Minute) Or Take Photographs Or Share A Quote Or Write A Blog (Maximum 300 Words With A Photograph) Reflecting: 
  • Impacts: How does lack of (adequate, affordable, acceptable) water and sanitation affect your community/ group? 
  • Actions: What existing initiatives or actions have you taken to address this? 
  • Responses: What responses have you received from the government? 
  • Support: What support and action do you want to see from the international community/ UN?  

N.B. If you do not have a social media handle or profile, you can also send your content to 

Side Event: Hearing the Unheard. the Human Right to Water and Sanitation

The side event session is hosted on March 23, 2023, 3:00PM-4:30PM EST Time in Hybrid mode. Registrations to participate in this side event of the UN 2023 Water Conference here

To learm more about this side event session and the organisations involved, please find hereunder the concept note on Hearing the Unheard: the Human Right to Water and Sanitation side event.


A Mentoring journey, by Fadzai T. Munodawafa and Kerstin Danert

For International Women’s Day, we would like to highlight two participants from the RWSN Mentoring programme for young professionals and women, Fadzai T. Munodawafa-Bhurabhura (from Zimbabwe) and Dr Kerstin Danert (from Switzerland). You can find out more about their experience of mentoring through RWSN below. RWSN plans on launching a new edition of the mentoring programme soon, and encourages women of all ages in the water sector to sign up. To find out more, sign up to become a RWSN member today.

Mentorship is a reciprocal learning relationship in which a mentor and mentee work collaboratively toward the achievement of mutually-defined goals that will develop a mentee’s skills, abilities, knowledge, and/or thinking.

Fadzai’s words:

I am Fadzai T. Munodawafa, a WASH professional with an international Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in Zimbabwe. I support teams who implement WASH in the rural communities in Zimbabwe. In addition, I am responsible for managing the drilling unit of the organisation. With such responsibilities as a young professional, I sought to increase my understanding of rural and urban water supply and sanitation as well as groundwater monitoring, which both have a significant bearing on improving access to water for under-privileged communities.

A message of invitation for young professionals in the water sector to join the mentorship programme under the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) was shared on the Zimbabwe WASH Cluster platform. I thought this was an opportunity to learn from senior professionals and firm up my career. Following acceptance within the mentorship programme in 2020, I was linked with Dr Kerstin Danert a water sector professional researcher and facilitator.

Kerstin’s words:

I am Kerstin Danert, a rural water supply professional who has been active in RWSN since 2004, when I was still living and working in Uganda. I work as a consultant, with a range of types of work including research, training, facilitation and knowledge-brokering. I currently live in Switzerland.

Fadzai’s words:

My mentorship experience was a flexible one where I would ask questions or a raise discussion point and Kerstin would have a topic for discussion for our scheduled meetings. During our 9-month mentorship relationship, Kerstin and I discussed broadly on topics such as groundwater management, remote sensing and sustainable community-based management of water points key areas that have helped me in my career in the water sector. Kerstin’s experience in sub-Saharan Africa and remote areas made our connection easy as she could relate to my experiences and questions.

Kerstin’s words:

Our mentoring relationship commenced just as I was branching out to start my own company, which unfortunately coincided with the start of the Covid pandemic. It was not an easy time (as we all know), and I was worried as to whether my company would even survive. It very soon became apparent that this would not be a one-way mentorship by any means. Fadzai not only helped me to make contact with field realities (which I was very much missing), but also gave me a lot of support and encouragement regarding my new venture.

Fadzai’s words:

As a young professional, I was not confident speaking in public forums, a weakness my mentor helped me to work on. Now I can confidently speak in professional forums following her encouragement. Our engagement also looked into working on my resume and boost it to showcase the experience and skills I have. In addition, she connected me with experienced drillers and water specialists in Zimbabwe.

Kerstin’s words

Although I have now worked in the water sector for over 25 years always as a consultant, I still remain concerned work may not come in going forwards. Further, I think that I had began to take my years of experience for granted. The exchanges with Fadzai helped me to fully appreciate that I am actually not at the start of my working life, but (hopefully) in the middle of it with a lot under my belt already!

Both of us

Since the mentorship programme under RWSN, we have kept in touch resulting in our participation in the UNHS Climate and Gender podcast on Global Partnership: Gender, Progression and Climate-Orientated Careers (The UNHS Podcast and Spotify) in 2021. The following year, our mentorship led us to work on a report and video documenting the impact stories from participants of online courses on professional drilling by the RWSN

Fadzai’s words:

As a result of my mentorship experience, I can more effectively allocate my time for various activities, connect and confidently engage with other professionals in the water sector as well as have knowledge on key aspects of documentation. I highly recommend other young professionals to join the mentorship program that will build them up in their career within the water sector. Many thanks to the RWSN for this amazing and life changing experience.

Kerstin’s words:

This mentorship brought me closer to the field again. I learned so much from the conversations with Fadzai – and drew insights from her into all of my ongoing assignments, whatever the topic in fact. She always had such insightful contributions to make. And I argue that I was the mentee just as much as Fadzai was. So I encourage others to take the time to get involved in this programme.  It has been so rewarding and I look forward to finally meeting Fadzai one day!  We have been talking regularly now for three years. A big thanks to RWSN for this chance.

To find out more information about the RWSN mentoring programme, please see here.

Addressing rapid handpump corrosion: the story of the Ghana Modified India Mark II

In 1983, I moved to live and work in Ghana – some 40 years ago now. Back then, I was the regional supervisor on the 3000 Well Maintenance Unit in Southern and Central Ghana which was funded by the German Development Service under the Rural Water Supply programme. The project was a pioneer of its time, and included drilling boreholes alongside the installation and testing of handpumps in six of Ghana’s regions, as well as the Nanumba district, Northern Region.

We initially installed India Mark II and Moyno pumps, before dropping the Moyno due to technical problems. However, we soon realised that the India Mark II pumps faced corrosion issues. Investigation and testing (as documented by Langennegger, 1989 and Langenegger, 1994) found that the Galvanised Iron components (rods and riser pipes), when installed in water with low pH, had a propensity to rapidly corrode – leading to discolouration of the water and affecting taste, but also causing the pumps to fail prematurely as the rods broke and riser pipes developed cracks and holes and even fell into the borehole. The envisaged idea of maintenance by communities, with assistance from mechanics who could reach villages by motorcycle, was simply not feasible with such installations. Another significant issue related to corrosion of hand pump parts was the water contamination and bad taste of the water. As a result, the water coloured the food and therefore caused the  population to stop using the borehole water and forced them to go back to unsafe water sources

We, therefore, had to seek alternatives. This involved field testing and collaborating with the Materials Testing Institute of the University of Darmstadt.

We looked into replacing the galvanised iron components with stainless steel. To ensure the pipes were light, we considered using 3 – 3.5 mm thick pipes, and used a threading that at the time was used in the drilling industry , known as the “rope thread”. Although Atlas Copco had patented this threading type at the time, it was later manufactured in India after the Atlas Copco design period (patent) ended.

Figure 1: Rope thread (Claus Riexinger)

The pump rods presented some challenges as well, since the AISI Stainless Steel grade 316 that we were using was subject to breakage, including the threaded parts. In collaboration with our partners at the University of Darmstadt, we were able to find ways to make this grade of stainless steel more elastic by adding 2-3 % Molybdenum. Other issues with the rods related to the use of rolled thread, which we learned was more durable than cut thread. Incorporating these materials and techniques, we were able to reduce the rod diameter from 12 mm down to 10.8mm, resulting in lighter rods which did not corrode. The only drawback was that the threads could not be cut in the field, but this was not such an issue, as there was no need to cut them when they were installed, or upon maintenance.

Figure 2: Pump installation (Claus Riexinger)

After switching to stainless steel riser pipes, we encountered another issue: -galvanic corrosion between the pipe and the water tank. This type of corrosion occurs when two dissimilar materials come into contact in solution. It was yet another challenge! Fortunately, we were able to solve this problem by replacing the existing flange with a new one made of stainless steel with an insulating gasket, into which the riser pipe could be screwed and prevent any further galvanic corrosion.

Figure 3: Ghana Modified India Mark II Handpump – water tank, spout and flange

After conducting extensive testing and collaborating with the University of Darmstadt over a period of around 4 years, we managed to solve the problem of rapid corrosion of handpumps in Ghana. The improved pump design came to be known as the Ghana Modified India Mark II, and was officially adopted by the Government of Ghana in the 1990s. Its specifications can be downloaded here.

Designing and publishing the specifications for a new pump is one thing, but the other is ensuring that these are adhered to.  A series of meetings with government, donors, and NGOs working in the water sector in the 1990s, led to the agreement to no longer use Galvanised Iron. All stakeholders were on board with the change.

Of particular importance was the tremendous support and buy-in of the major donor at the time – KfW (Germany). They agreed to pay for the increased costs of the Ghana Modified Pump on new installations, which at the time was about three times more expensive than the version using Galvanised Iron.  KfW also supported the rehabilitation and replacement of the pumps that had previously been installed using Galvanised Iron. As a result, we were able to remove and replace the corroded installations systematically, rather than addressing the issue in a piecemeal manner.

It is estimated that over 4,500 Ghana Modified India Mark II handpumps had been installed in Ghana by the time I left the 3000 Well Maintenance Unit in 1992.  Anecdotally, I would say that 90% were working, and of the 10% out of use, they were down for maintenance/repair.

KfW took this design to Cameroon, while Danida took it to Burkina Faso and Zambia. I am not fully aware of what happened next, but I do know that ensuring the quality of stainless steel was a problem in Burkina Faso.

I am very pleased to see that Ghana Modified India Mark II handpumps are now available through the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN), and hope that these can be of use to other countries that are struggling to overcome the rapid handpump corrosion problem.

Figure 4: Example factory inspection Modified India MKII (Claus Riexinger)

However, I have a work of caution too. Although specifications, standards, and clear procurement documents are essential, they are rendered meaningless in the absence of inspection. During my time with the 3000 Well Maintenance Unit and later as an independent consultant, I traveled to India and other places for pre-shipment inspections. I also oversaw the rejection of consignments from India and Europe due to poor quality or manufacturing mistakes. And so, I urge all of you involved in handpump procurement and installation to make sure that you ensure the quality, especially through inspection and material testing.

Ghana Modified India Mark II Drawings and Specifications

More information about Ghana Modified India Mark II (external website)

About the author: Claus Riexinger is a rural WASH expert and freelance consultant with over forty years of experience in development cooperation with Government organisations, private companies, and development agencies mainly in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Germany, India, Tanzania, and Ghana.

Photo credits: Claus Riexinger

New REAL-Water activity: Water Sustainability in Southern Madagascar

REAL-Water to coordinate data and actions for the sustainable development of water resources in arid Southern Madagascar.

In Madagascar, there are significant disparities in access to essential water and sanitation services. Currently, only about half of the population (54.4%) has access to vital water services, and just over 10% have access to necessary sanitation services. The situation is particularly challenging in Southern Madagascar, where various development issues, such as population growth, changes in land use, and worsening dry-season water shortages, are present. These difficulties are exacerbated by poverty, which hinders water resource development, leads to poor infrastructure, and contributes to food insecurity. 

To guide regional programming that considers the development and humanitarian requirements, USAID Madagascar has commissioned REAL-Water to assess water resources and infrastructure needs. The program will entail specific activities, including a literature review of water development activities, data collection on existing and planned water infrastructure, analyses of remaining water resources and infrastructure needs, and planning for future investments.

Topographical map of Southern Madagascar.
The six districts of interest covered in the assessment are shown on an I-digital elevation model (from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission). Small gray and green polygons indicate areas of human settlement (“Settlement Extents”) from the GRID3 DATA HUB. Each settlement extent type (built-up area, small settlement area, and hamlet) is included, with built-up areas depicted in green).

Re-blogged from Aquaya. RWSN is proud to be partner in the REAL-Water programme leading on engagement.